Creating Connection with Your Children When Your Own Mother Was Emotionally Absent

by Pat Kuykendoll

Women who have emotionally absent mothers often begin motherhood without a template of how to connect to and be emotionally present for their own children. These motherless daughters can feel mother loss once again as they approach parenthood. But in this instance the loss is different. It is a loss of confidence in the capacity to effectively nurture and connect with their own children.

On the outside this new mother is captured by the bliss and awe of motherhood, but on the inside motherhood feels like a mystery. This new mother bursts with pride and determination to not repeat her history yet believes she is unable to escape it.

Her mother failed to give this motherless daughter an experience of feeling that she is worthy of love and/or that others are capable of loving her. This imprints upon her daughter a faulty self-image. That self-image comes alive in an inner voice that speaks the lie, “How can you be a good mother when you were mothered poorly?” The lie further echoes within, “You are defective and you are not enough.” Yet not everything we believe is true and what is true we don’t always believe.

Here are points of hope for this motherless daughter whose joy has been crippled by a faulty self-image:

  • Although you did not experience an emotionally available mother, the fact you are here today shows that someone blessed you with a reservoir of emotional safety. That did not have to come from your parents.
  • Your past can be redeemed. Therefore your heritage does not have to be your legacy.
  • Research reflects that parents do not have to be perfect. Joshua Straub reports in his book Safe House that parents who are able to practice emotional coaching with their children just 40% of the time are effective and doing well.

How marvelous that there is a blueprint called emotional coaching that can provide connection and availability to our children. And further, parents only have to get it right 40% of the time to convey emotional presence, safety, and availability to their children!

This blueprint for giving your child a story different from your own includes these steps:

  • Grow an awareness of your child’s emotions. Observe the nuances of their facial expressions, gestures, voice tone, and pace that hints at what they are feeling.
  • View emotions—even emotions such as anger or fear—as an opportunity to connect with your child. This will be different from your experience but different is what you desire to create.
  • Listen to your child’s expression of their feelings with curiosity about their emotional experience. Know that all feelings are acceptable while all behaviors may not be.
  • Name their feelings. “It sounds like you are feeling…” If you miss the mark then offer redeeming words such as, “Help me understand.”
  • Explore solutions to problems together. Honor ideas with acceptance. If they offer ideas that are unrealistic, ask them the question, “And what else could you do?”

See this list and further information here.

The blueprint of what we do must have a foundation built on truth. We must demolish the lies that create a faulty self-image.

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. -2 Corinthians 10:5

Spiritually we must identify the thoughts that cripple our mothering confidence. Name them. Next we must take them before God where evidence is presented so truth can be revealed. It is there that God speaks gently yet in bold declaration, “I created you worthy of love and others are capable of loving you.”

You were created to bless your children with this message in a rich connection with them. Step in tune with His truth each time those lies attempt to divert you. He is speaking to you. You are a meticulously crafted masterpiece with purpose and design to be emotionally attuned to your children.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. -Ephesians 2:10

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